PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Thorns (5-1-1, 16pts) defeated the Washington Spirit (1-3-3, 6pts) in front of a lively crowd of 12,474 Sunday afternoon at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon. The Thorns won on goals by forwards Christine Sinclair (41st minute) and Alex Morgan (86th minute), while goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc recorded her third clean sheet of the season.
Spirit reserve goalkeeper Chantel Jones was given the surprise start in goal for Ashlyn Harris and she handled herself admirably for much of the match, dealing with a potent Thorns attack led by a determined Sinclair, who seemed to take over the match in the run-up to her goal.
“I can’t say enough positive things about (Sinclair),” Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone said after the match. “She does anything for the team, both on and off the field. If we need more defense, you see her dropping in. If we need more attacking, she’s pushing forward, trying to get the goal or assist. I’m not surprised by her spirit, her effort or her attitude at all today.”
The Thorns came out attacking with Morgan having a solid attacking run in the first 10 minutes, but slowly, the Spirit began to dictate play and became more of the attacking side by the midway point of the half, led by dangerous attacking midfielder Diana Matheson and defender Ali Krieger, who dominated down the right-side of the pitch.
The attacking play of the Spirit put the Thorns in the unfamiliar position of being on the counterattack, but it proved beneficial on Sinclair’s goal. On the previous possessions running up the goal, the Spirit committed players forward, which allowed Sinclair to push through the defense and make a run at the goal.
“It was actually kind of nice to play on the counter,” said Sinclair. “Washington is a very dangerous team when they send numbers forward. As a result, we caught them on the counter a lot. We created some chances off that. Hopefully, we can continue to build on that and catch teams on the counter.”
After several solid runs ending is misconnections or long shot attempts, midfielder Allie Long was able to find Sinclair from the top of the box who put the ball inside the far post past Jones. The goal was Sinclair’s third of the season, while Long recorded her first assist
“[Allie Long] was actually sicker than a dog today,” Sinclair said. “Her pass to me on the goal, we talked about it halftime. She was like ‘I just saw your eyes light up.’ Their outside back wasn’t aware of me, and I felt like if I called for the ball, she’d know I was there. She was like ‘I just saw your eyes.’”
The goal sparked the Thorns and they began to make more attacking runs to close out the half, with Sinclair nearly adding another, while the Spirit appeared a bit stunned as they appeared to be in more control of the match at that point.
The Thorns continued their attacking form coming out of the break, with Morgan getting an early header off a Rachel Buehler free kick, but she pushed the ball just wide.
As the game wore on, fatigue became a greater factor, as neither team could get anything going, as they continued to feel the effects of playing on Thursday as well.
“I told them that I knew fatigue was an issue and that we weren’t going to be able to press defensively like we would want to,” said Cone. “On the flipside of that, we have to do a better job of possessing. When we win the ball we need to do a good job of possessing and conserve some energy and protect our legs so we could save it for late in the game.”
With fatigue, as well a disjointed attack affecting the Thorns, the Spirit were able to stay in game and control much of the possession in the second half, but scoring has been an issue all season long, save for Thursday’s offensive explosion. While they were dangerous down the right flank, the finishing from the forwards was once again lacking, and what attacks they did get were often shut down by the Thorns backline or LeBlanc, who only had to make three saves on the day.
With the Spirit maintaining more of the possession and the Thorns only up by a goal, the match never truly felt like it was decided until the 86th minute, when midfielder Courtney Wetzel found Morgan off a stolen pass from Spirit defender Robin Gayle, who split the defense and beat Jones for her league-leading 4th goal of the season, while Wetzel earned her first assist.
“Courtney Wetzel found me perfectly in behind, and I had already had one breakaway that I missed so I wasn’t going to let another slip through my hands,” said Morgan. “When I see a counter attack starting, and when Sinclair had the ball I was trying to find open space; trying to drag the defender away. I think we were on the same page and if you get enough opportunities, you’re going to put those away eventually.”
With the game out of reach, the Spirit still looked to break the shutout, as forward Stephanie Ochs forced LeBlanc to make a diving save in added time.
With the victory, the Thorns maintain their positing at the top of the table with Sky Blue FC, with 16 points and a record of 5-1-1, while the Spirit fall to 1-3-3 for 6 points.
For the match, the Thorns led in nearly every statically category, including shots (14-8), shots on goal (8-3), and corner kicks (3-2). Morgan once again led the Thorns with six shots and three shots on goal, bringing her league-leading totals to 31 shots and 20 shots on goal, while LeBlanc recorded her third clean sheet of the season and brought her goals against average down to 0.57, tied with FC Kansas City’s Nicole Barnhart and Sky Blue FC’s Brittany Cameron, who shut out the Thorns on Thursday.
For the Spirit, Krieger, Matheson and Ochs each had two shots, while Krieger, Ochs and midfielder Ingrid Wells each had a shot on goal. Jones, making her NWSL debut, made six saves.
The Spirit will conclude their road trip, heading to Somerville, Massachusetts to face the Boston Breakers (2-1-2, 8pts) on Saturday, May 25 at 7:00pm EDT at Dilboy Stadium in their third meeting of the season. The two previous meetings between the Breakers and Spirit ended in 1-1 draws.
The Thorns will head up Interstate 5 to Tukwila, Washington to take on the Seattle Reign (0-6-1, 1pt) on Saturday, May 25 at 7:00pm PDT at Starfire Stadium for the second meeting in the Cascadia Derby. The Thorns defeated the Reign 2-1 in their first meeting of the season on goals by Morgan and defender Marian Dougherty.
Watch the full match replay:
Portland Thorns FC (5-1-1, 16pts) vs. Washington Spirit (1-3-3, 6pts)
May 19, 2013 – JELD-WEN Field (Portland, Ore.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
WAS 0 0 0
POR 1 1 2
POR: Sinclair (Long), 41
POR: Morgan (Wetzel), 86
POR: Marshall (Caution), 65
WAS: Gayle (Caution), 82
Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Rachel Buehler, D Kathryn Williamson, D Nikki Marshall, M Becky Edwards, M Allie Long (Jessica Shufelt, 90), M Meleana Shim (Angie Kerr, 79), M Nikki Washington (Courtney Wetzel, 71), F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan
Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D Jazmyne Avant, M Elizabeth Guess, F Danielle Foxhoven
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Morgan, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Morgan, 3); FOULS: 7 (Marshall, Long, 2); OFFSIDES: 3; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 3
WAS: GK Chantel Jones, D Domenica Hodak, D Tori Huster, D Robyn Gayle, D Ali Krieger, M Julia Roberts, M Lori Lindsey (capt.), M Diana Matheson, M Ingrid Wells (Jasmyne Spencer, 71), F Tiffany McCarty (Caroline Miller, 65), F Stephanie Ochs
Substitutes Not Used: GK Ashlyn Harris, D Candace Chapman, D Kika Toulouse, M Holly King, F Colleen Williams
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Three players tied, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Three players tied, 1); FOULS: 9 (Gayle, 2); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 6
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: Cory Richardson, Andrew Deuker
Fourth Official: Andrew Brooks
Weather: 57 degrees, partly cloudy
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial